As a first-generation low-income student, Vivian Wu was unaware of the steps she would need to take to apply and go to college. Admission to the College Track, a program designed to assist students from low-income communities in achieving their post-secondary education goals, has given Wu a guarantee of success in college.
The College Track began in 1997 to help underrepresented students and first-generation students from low-income families continue their education and earn a bachelor’s degree. Today, the program operates across the country in a variety of locations and collaborates with a variety of organizations and agencies, including the USC.
Through the program, Wu, a junior majoring in communication. attended financial aid seminars and received assistance in writing her personal statements. When she decided to enroll at USC, Wu said she was paired with a college coach who guided her through internships and employment opportunities.
The College Track operates in the Los Angeles region of Boyle Heights and Watts, and its newest site in Crenshaw, which opened to the first group of students last February, is a few miles from the University Park campus.
According to Samuel Harrison, senior vice president of university relations, the university’s partnership with College Track Crenshaw is just one of the many ways the university serves families. Given that the university provides hundreds of community programs to thousands of local families, he said that partnering with programs and organizations intends to maximize the positive impact and create opportunities in communities.
“Partnerships such as the College Track are part of the president [Carol] Folt’s comprehensive commitment is to expand access to colleges and opportunities throughout Los Angeles, especially in East Side and South Los Angeles, ”Harrison said. “Collaboration is very important, so we collaborate and support organizations like College Track. We learn from each other and work together to create a shared vision in serving the community workbook. ”
Wu said it was “nice to hear” that the university is collaborating with the College Track because both institutions have sets of “valuable” networks and resources that will benefit students enrolled in the program.
“It’s possible for this partnership to happen – it’s great, I hope, to get these resources to people who need it and who also desperately want it,” Wu said. “USC is known as such a prestigious and privileged place, so it’s nice to see that they are taking a step towards sharing some of these privileges and sharing some of these resources.”
Among those on the Board of Trustees at Los Angeles College Track in Crenshaw is former alumni and Olympic gold medalist Alison Felix, who joined the board last July. Felix, who graduated from USC in 2008, grew up in Crenshaw County.
“The College Track, which has its center in Crenshaw County, is so great because there are so many students who can benefit and have such a bright future,” Felix said in an interview with College Track. “I know what impact this will have on their lives and it will really affect not only the students but also really change the families and [the] the community as a whole. ”
At all College Track sites, including the Los Angeles area, the program follows a plan that serves students for 10 years, beginning in ninth grade and ending with students in their final year of college. Thus, College Track seeks to eliminate “academic, financial, and socio-emotional barriers” that prevent students from pursuing higher education.
According to Crenshaw director Vintar McNeil, students who visit these places and participate in the program receive guidance and training from the Department of Educational Affairs, the Department of Student Life and the Department of Health. Each department has a different goal, such as individual training.
McNeill also said the College Track helps parents by explaining the process of learning in college through informational evenings that talk about topics such as the college admissions process and financial aid.
“While many of our students are first-generation, we want to make sure they are able to overcome any systemic barriers faced by their family members that prevent them from entering college, and ensure that our students are prepared as well as families, ”she said.
On all of its sites, College Track has 15 active students currently attending the USC program, three of whom are from the Los Angeles region. In addition to those enrolled, four other students are graduates of the program and have already earned bachelor’s degrees.
One of these 15 active students is Jordan Sosa, a freshman majoring in electrical engineering and computer engineering who is part of the College Track San Francisco. He enrolled in College Track in his freshman year of high school and joined after hearing about ACT training and help with essay writing. He also said that program management monitored his academic performance.
“The most useful part was definitely the teachers and staff,” he said. “They are watching you a lot. They make sure you are up to date and make sure you are on your way to high school and college. ”
Like Wu, Sosa recognized the partnership between College Track and the University as a “great deal” given that families may not be able to afford the cost of college tuition.
“There are a lot of bright students and insufficient communities who without the right guides would not be able to get to these prestigious schools without guides,” Sosa said. “I think the partnership really helped that because they will motivate them to apply here.”
Los Angeles College Track Regional Executive Director John Lee said the partnership between the university and College Track will give students the opportunity to connect to more offers from the university, such as the USC Bovard Scholars program, which helps high-achieving students with financial barriers find enroll in the best colleges across the country and even help them enroll.
“I am confident that our partnership will help expand the number of College Track students applying to USC and strengthen the university community through the presence and experience of our students,” Lee said. “The partnership allows us to offer College Track services to more students in our region, no matter where they go to college, and we are very grateful for that.”
Lee said he hopes others will have the opportunity to hear about the program and potentially join.
“We joke in our College Track team that College Track is one of the best kept secrets,” he said. “We don’t want to be a secret anymore … I expect we will see more and more students every year.”
Because Crenshaw’s location is new, it currently only serves freshmen and sophomores. However, Lee said he expects these students to eventually graduate from high school and go to college, and that the Crenshaw site will see an increase in entrants over time. At full capacity Lee said the location in Crenshaw would serve at least 240 students from ninth to 12th grades.
McNeill said service at College Track gives her a chance to see herself in the students. As part of the program, McNeill said, it is in line with her educational philosophy to meet with students and be able to support them.
“It says a lot to my soul because I was a student and I am the students we serve growing up in the Crenshaw district community – a first-generation college student,” McNeil said. “My ability to return to my community has always been my dream; to serve the community and help students know that college is not an option, but the opportunity they have access to is invaluable. ”